Apple Fuel Cells May Make 2016 The Future Of Energy

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Apple still faces a couple of fundamental engineering problems when it comes to the design of a new iPhone. Consumers are simply not happy with the amount of time their smartphone batteries last. An iPhone 6 with a much larger screen will probably boost battery life to some extent, but Tim Cook’s team may have something even more effective in the pipeline. According to rumors, Apple is working on putting hydrogen fuel cells into its products.

A report from Digitimes writer Michael McManus, which emerged on Monday morning, spread rumors that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is working with UK fuel cell producer Intelligent Energy. The company went public in the UK last week and is now valued at more than $1 billion.

Apple Aims For Infinite Power

According to Intelligent Energy filings the company is pursuing development of its fuel cells along with Japanese motorbike maker Suzuki, airplane manufacturer Boeing and an unnamed international consumer electronics company. Sources that expressed themselves to Digitimes said that the company involved is Apple.

The relationship between the firms apparently reaches back as far as 2009 when they signed a development agreement, and it was strengthened in 2013 when a patent portfolio was jointly acquired. The sources said that Apple could have such devices ready by 2016, with the company’s notebooks likely being the first devices using the hydrogen fuel cells.

Apple has been transforming itself into a service company in recent years, and the phone recharging business could be a lucrative one. Fuel cell smartphones would, speculatively, need to be charged every week or two. That could be done at the local Apple store, as long as the ongoing Apple Care package has been purchased, of course.

Energy Problems Plague Consumer Electronics

The amount of electricity it takes to run the world’s mobile devices and the data centers that power them is incredible. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and its competitors have been striving to make their batteries last longer in order to make their devices more attractive, but few have had much success above the premium baseline.

Many solutions to this problem have been volunteered, but for now we are stuck with the same batteries that have been powering devices for years. One charge per day isn’t so bad, or at least that’s what we tell ourselves. Given an alternative for no loss of performance, it can be assumed that most people would jump at the opportunity.

It’s likely that any success in fuel cell powered smartphones is years away from implementation, but the idea is seductive. If Cupertino is indeed the first company to harness the technology, it will be the only company selling premium smartphones. The battery life benefits would make it a revolutionary rather than incremental technology. Likewise, investors would need some serious gymnastics to justify investing in any other smartphone company.

Disclosure: Author represents that he has no position in any stocks mentioned in this article at the time this article was submitted.